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A Stirring Tale

November 21, 1996|CHARLES PERRY

Liang ban mian (literally, cold-stirred noodles) is a classic Chinese snack. It consists of cold noodles mixed with a sauce, such as soy sauce or a mixture of vinegar and peanut butter.

But the Chinese words "liang mian" (cold noodles) have gotten around on their own without the ban, and in some unusual ways. In Korea, the cold part is taken seriously. Naeng myon is cold buckwheat noodles--in the Korean summer, they're served with ice.

And in Xinjiang, the far western region of China directly north of Tibet, the Turkish-speaking Uighur people took up the stirring part of the idea, even though they didn't borrow the Chinese word for "stir." They make a noodle dish called langman or laghman, which is simply noodles (hot noodles, in point of fact) mixed with a meaty sauce, rather than floating in soup, which is how noodles had always been served in Xinjiang before the Chinese conquest.

This was an idea whose time had come. In the later 19th century, Uighur refugees from Xinjiang poured into neighboring Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, taking laghman with them. These non-cold "cold stirred" noodles are now part of most Central Asian national cuisines.

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